Liz and Simon Randall have been working with national deafblind charity Sense and former education secretary Lord David Blunkett to publish a report on the issue.
The couple have a five-year-old son Luke who has a rare genetic condition which has left him with multiple disabilities, including epilepsy, limited hearing and poor sight.
The family from Steyning were consulted as part of a three month inquiry into the provision of play opportunities for disabled children up to five in England and Wales.And despite the usual complaints from parents of disabled children that their lives are so stressful and they have no free time, this couple seem to have had quite a lot:
The Randalls tried to access several play areas in Sussex and feedback from their experience was used as part of the report.
They found the negative attitude towards their son’s condition was one of the major barriers to Luke accessing mainstream play settings.
Mrs Randall, 45, said: “There is a lack of information on what support is available and where to find accessible play opportunities.
“The playgroups and nurseries we found weren’t equipped for a child with complex needs. “Well, of course they aren’t! How could they be? The cost would be prohibitive, and many of the things that non-disabled children use would need to be removed.
“The environment was often hazardous, whether that was the layout of the area, the furniture or unsuitable toys.
“Luke needs lots of sensory stimulation. He responds really well to toys with bells, whistles, different textures and lights and sounds, but it’s rare that these are provided.
“We also need somewhere soft, like a ball pool or trampoline. However many facilities seem to have hard surfaces which are not great for Luke who likes to lie on the floor a lot and test things with his head. “Then maybe someone should suggest that a ‘general purpose’ child’s playground is not the best place for him?
“We’re often confronted by quite ignorant views and attitudes. Other children tend to be inquisitive about Luke but many parents are reluctant to include us.
“You can see them steering their child away. It’s like they think his condition is contagious.
“For this reason, it is tempting to stick to specialist settings and just spend time with people who see Luke for Luke.”So do so! What’s the problem with that?
The Play report reveals that across the country, eight out of ten parents have struggled to access a mainstream play setting and one in two disabled children has been turned away from play activities.
Lord Blunkett and Sense are now calling for urgent action to address this.How? Without costing a shedload more money that councils claim not to have, or devaluing the options offered to all the other users who aren’t disabled?